Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Using Apps for Evaluating Posture

Editor's Note:  This post originally appeared on Your Therapy Source.

Here is an interesting way to evaluate a client's posture - try using your iPhone or iPad. Basically what you will do is create an image with a picture of the client and a grid over the picture. With the grid you can measure angles to determine progress. Here is how you do it:

Step 1: Download a free app to your phone that can alter photographs. I used a free app called SketchBookX for the purpose of this tutorial.

Step 2: Download and save a copy of this transparent grid that I created below (right click on image to save).

Step 3: Email yourself a copy of the grid and save the grid image on your phone.

Step 4: Take a picture of your client with your phone to assess his/her posture. See example below.

Step 5: Open up the SketchBookX app on your phone. Touch the circle at the bottom of page. Touch the icon with the three pieces of paper on it. For Layer 1 touch the icon with the flower and plus symbol to acquire your image from phone. Choose from your photo library the picture you took of the client. Now touch the two plus symbols to create another layer. Touch the flower/plus symbol to acquire the image of the grid that you emailed and saved the copy of on your phone (it will appear black because it is transparent). Now press the down arrow and touch merge. The grid will now be merged on top of the photo. See below.

Step 6: Print out your image or store online for your photo documentation before interventions. Using a protractor and the grid as a guide you can determine different angles of the spine.

Step 7: To assess progress, repeat the process showing improvements in the angles over time.

Now maybe you are thinking that you could just take a picture to indicate postural changes or use a goniometer. This is true but, by actually measuring the angles on the grid over time you can document small progressions that may not be as noticeable in a regular photo. A picture is worth a thousand words too. It can be difficult to get a true goniometric measurement of a child's posture who moves frequently whereas a photo can capture that moment in time. In addition, it can help with goal writing - Jane will improve her upright posture at her desk by 10 degrees. It certainly is not exact but not a bad free tool if you ask me.

Have any questions about how to do it all? Email me at

Can you think of any other ways to use the grid over photos to indicate progress?

Margaret Rice

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Writing TherAppy

Thank you to S-LP Kimberly Freed for her submission of this review.

App Name/Publisher: Writing TherAppy by Tactus Therapy Solutions

Description: This app allows the user to work on writing and spelling at the single word level in a variety of interactive contexts.  Writing can be practiced by filling in the blanks, copying, labeling a picture, or writing to dictation.

 Therapy Use:
When recently using this app with a 70-year old female patient she exclaimed “I really like this!” with a big smile across her face. After working on so many take home spelling worksheets, she found the interactive and colourful program a nice change.

I find myself using each of the components of this app in slightly different ways. The Copy feature is great for low level spellers and users who would benefit from a confidence boost. With the picture and word spelled out for them, they can get familiarized with the task and focus on scanning the letters and checking their work. Similarly, the Fill in the Blank feature provides the extra bit of scaffolding some users need for both their spelling and their confidence.  I have noticed with several users that before they pick the check button, they are able to self-monitor and often correct their spelling. The drag option allows the client to shuffle the letters around until they feel it looks right and then they can get confirmation by hitting check.

For any patients who own iPhones or iPads this app can be used for home practice because it provides hints and corrective feedback. I had one patient use this app at home in conjunction with her therapy in the clinic so that all of her goals could be targeted regularly within the restraints of therapy time.

App Benefits/Likes:
·      For pt’s with decreased pen/pencil grip tolerance, the option to use a touch screen is a nice alternative
·      Visual appeal- bright colourful pictures, but not too busy
·      I love that this app has the check button. This allows users to monitor their own progress but still receive corrective feedback.
·      The hint button offers a nice step down on all of the actives either by decreasing the blanks to be filled in or the number of letter choices offered.
·      When an error is made, only the incorrect letters are removed, so that the client can see the letters they have correctly selected and try to fix those that are incorrect.
·      After correctly writing a word, the program reads the word out loud

Cautions: A fair degree of fine motor control is required for users to drag and drop letters from the letter selection into the blanks. I have had several patients who have struggled with this due to both a lack of familiarity with touch screens and reduced fine motor control. That said, the settings do allow for an alternative Tap option that reduces some of the fine motor control demands. (Unless of course you’re teaming up with the OT to work on that!)

In the future I’d like to see an option for larger letter buttons and possibly some sentence level writing.      

App Summary

Skill(s) Targeted
Expressive Language
Writing to Dictation
Written Naming

Age/Grade Levels Targeted
(Has a child-friendly mode for using with kids)

How to Activate
2 settings on how to move letters: drag or tap

Type of Device
iOS Universal for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad


Would you recommend this app?
Yes, it’s great for use both in the clinic and for users who have access to the technology at home.


Reviewed by:
Kimberly Freed, M.Sc., SLP(C)

Review Date:
March 15, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Social Express

The Social Express by The Language Express, Inc
Price: $89.00.

This Post was written by Jenna Rayburn and Originally appeared on her blog, Speech Room News.

Social communication is a critical area of need for many children. Social skills are often difficult to teach, and even harder for students to initiate and follow through. I'm always on the lookout for another tool to add in my 'social skills toolbox.' One app people have been requesting to see a review of is The Social Express.  The developers gave me a copy of the app to test it out for you! The Social Express is software designed to teach management of social situations using video models and interactive choices. It's available as an app and also for Macs/PCs, meaning it works for all SLP's!

 You open the Social Express and meet the main characters. Max is the driver who leads you through the app.  He introduced some sweet characters, including my favorite, Sunny, the pup!

You can add multiple users - which is great! First, students work through each lesson to 'unlock' them. Once you have passed the lessons the first time, you can go back to individual lessons as needed for review and instruction. There are 2 levels of instruction, based on similar skills with increased difficulty at level 2.

At the introduction of a skill the 'Hidden Social Key' is explicitly stated. There are teaching tips that you can turn on or off throughout the lessons. Social concepts targeted include: proximity and body language, eye contact, identifying feelings, coping strategies, conversational skills and figurative language.

My favorite part of the program is the part of the program where students answer questions to unlock the clubhouse! Student are presented with two video sessions and then they choose the one that demonstrates the skill. I love it as a wrap up for the lessons to check comprehension of the skills.
Video modeling is engaging to students.
Two skill levels are included, making the appropriate for children k-5.
Provides modeling of both positive and negative outcomes.
It allows for multiple answer choice- providing opportunity to let students choose the correct response as well as the incorrect response to work through.
Allows for pausing to give the therapist time to give instruction.
The price tag hurts, meaning it may be out of reach for many therapists. I imagine it cost a lot to develop the app with animation, and you can tell a lot of work went into it!
It includes a limited set of lessons and I hope they will expand with updates!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Doodlecast for Kids/Doodlecast Pro

This post originally appeared on Speechtechie.

When interactive whiteboards (IWBs) first arrived on the scene with their accompanying software, one of the best aspects was teachers' easy access to recording features so that they could preserve each lesson as a video file and share it later via their webpages or other means.  This assisted students who needed information repeated, and also made really good use of the visual teaching capabilities of IWBs.  It also is extremely motivating for students to be able to use this technology themselves in order to explain or apply a curriculum concept, and then hear/see their work and evaluate how well they did!

This kind of "screen recording," or, in another one of my made-up terms, "Explanimation" technology is now available through a number of easy-to-use apps.  In this post, I am going to highlight two I really like, though there are others that are popular and well-reviewed.  I was excited to see this technology applied in a very user-friendly app geared toward use with younger children, Doodlecast for Kids ($1.99, iPad only). In the words of Tickle Tap Apps "Doodlecast combines your drawing and voice to create short videos."  Check it out in action here:

Applying a language lens, this app has many potential uses:
-My graduate student intern and I have found that this app has been very motivating to several articulation students working at the sentence and carryover levels.  We use it in combination with articulation word lists and have the students make up sentences and stories using their target sounds.
-I have also found this to be a really useful tool when working with targets such as multiple meaning words, figurative language and vocabulary.
-The app has a built-in lens on setting and emotions, as the home screen allows you to pick settings such as "water" or "sky" such that those are pre-drawn on the screen, and you can add to them.  These aspects contribute to the app's usefulness as a narrative development tool.

There is now an older brother of Doodlecast For Kids, Doodlecast Pro ($3.99, iPad only) Though Doodlecast for Kids is recommended for ages 3-5, it's applicable for much older kids, and I have used it with middle school students. expands the functionality of Explanimation technology greatly by allowing you to insert images into the animation and adding more customizable tools.  As a result, you can take an image on any topic (see our Essential Tech Skill Tip regarding using Google Images on iPad) and draw and speak about it.

Both Doodlecast for Kids and Doodlecast Pro let you save the video to the iPad (it will be in the Photos app/Camera Roll, not the Videos app) for easy review/sharing at a later time. Videos can be uploaded to YouTube directly from the Doodlecast Pro app, or within the Photos app for videos created with Doodlecast for kids.

For a free app that is similar to Doodlecast Pro, try ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard or Educreations Interactive Whiteboard.  I do like that Doodlecast lets you save to your iPad where ShowMe, for example, only lets you export to their website.

So, readers, what do you think of Explanimation? What other uses do you see for this technology in Speech-Language Pathology?  Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Readability for iPad

Readability by Readability LLC
Price: Free
Compatible with iPone, iPod Touch and iPad
iTunes Link: Readability

This post originally appeared on
Readability is an add-on for your web browser that allows you to read articles in a "clean view" and to save articles to read later. Readability cleans up the clutter on a web page by removing ads and distracting information so that you are left with the main article content. The Readability app turns any web page into a clean, single column view for reading on your iPhone, iPod or iPad. Through the app you can read the web page immediately, or save it to read at a later time.  As an added feature, the app syncs with your computer so that you can catch up on reading the articles you've saved with the free Readability add-on for your web browser.

Users can find articles through an in app web search, or through directly typing in a specific URL.
Reading view, including font style, font size, margins and contrast can be adjusted. When you are finished reading an article you can easily delete it, archive it, or share it with others through Facebook, Twitter or email.

One of the biggest pros of Readability is that both the web add on and the app are free. Additionally, I found Readability to be a clean and simple to use app. This app does what it claims to do. It makes an easier and more enjoyable reading experience for the user. Beyond using it for my own reading enjoyment, I can envision using Readability during speech/language therapy sessions and feel it also has applications for occupational therapy. This app can be useful for clients whose reading ability is negatively impacted by visual clutter on the page, including clients with executive dysfunction or ADHD. The ability to make changes to font size and contrast is useful for clients who are far sighted, or those who have other vision or visual-perceptual deficits. SLP's can also utilize this app to clean up extraneous content, such as ads, before sharing articles with clients, students or families. Within an educational setting, the SLP can assist students with finding articles for class projects/papers and the students can email the articles to themselves for later review.

Review by: Deb Tomarakos M.A. CCC/SLP

Friday, March 9, 2012

Art Maker

This post also appears on SpeechTechie.

Though we in the states will have no idea what the context is about, since the app is based on Australian children's television show Play School, the new app Art Maker (currently FREE, iPad only) provides a great tool to harness animation for speech and language development. The app allows you to choose from  6 settings (beach, farm, etc), use a plain colored paper background, or a photo from your camera roll "to bring Play School into your world." After you add characters and other props, you record as you speak and move items around the screen in order to create an animated movie that is saved within the app.

The doggie built a sandcastle, but it is about to be destroyed by a wave!
Art Maker is essentially a simplified version of Toontastic, in that it allows you to just create one scene, but its look and feel (kind of a paper-and-fabric craftsy motif) are well worth checking out. I like that the app also allows you to take a snapshot of your scene, and click on any of the characters and props with a puzzle piece icon, and you'll be able to assemble that element as a "puzzle" before using it in the scene (a good opportunity to work on describing by parts).

This app will definitely appeal to preschool and primary school students in order to target vocabulary, concepts, sentence formulation, cause and effect relationships, sequencing, narrative, social skills, and articulation, voice or fluency (with recorded feedback).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Story Kit and Physical Therapy

Ed. Note: Though four SLPs started TherapyApp411, we have always aimed to have contributions from other disciplines.  Thank you to PT Stacy Menz for allowing us to repost this review from her blog, Starfish Therapies!

By Stacy M. Menz, PT, DPT, PCS
Board Certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist

I love books. I often use books in therapy as motivation to have kids reach up to turn a page or do something in order for me to read the next page. I even used a book that one of our OT’s had adapted and made it into a gross motor activity. That being said I haven’t found many books that I can use to facilitate gross motor activities (I would love any suggestions if you know of any out there). So I finally decided to make up my own stories that could include gross motor activities. So far I have only made one story but I have a ton of ideas for other stories.

I was about to download Pictello which will allow you to use photos to make a talking book. The cost of that was 18.99 which I would have paid in order to make these stories (ideas) floating around in my head but then I noticed StoryKit which was free! I figured this was a great way to play around with the idea and then I could always switch to Pictello if I wanted to. The only slight disadvantage is that StoryKit is only on the iphone (although you could just expand it on your ipad) wheras Pictello is on both the iphone and iPad.

StoryKit even let me upload the story so I could email a link to someone else. I thought I would share my first story with you (its not very creative but you can get some ideas for how you can do it). My thoughts are that the reward/treasure at the end is another ‘fun’ activity that the kiddo likes to do but is still working on their skills.

For some of our kids I also thought this would be a great idea to get them to help me create the story with the activities they are doing and it can be motivation for performing the task.

I definitely feel like other disciplines can use this too in order to work on the skills they want to practice but I was so excited that I can finally make my gross motor story books!

Saturday, March 3, 2012


App Name/Publisher: Songify by the Gregory brothers of Khush Inc.

Description: Perfect for iPhone, iTouch, iPad or Android this FREE and easy to use app allows you to turn speech into song. Simply “tap to record” and voila, Songify turns your speech into awesome musical vocals set to upbeat tracks.  Totally cool, right!? Don't like the default track that comes with the app? No problem! The app boasts a variety of tracks you can mix and re-mix your new song for $1 per track.  You can even save your recording and email it as an mp4 file to Facebook, Twitter or Gmail. 

Applications for Music Therapy: Although I have used this app with clients to focus on breath support, articulation and discussing social concepts, Songify can also address expressive language, following directions, and creativity. Just the other day I had one client talk about what he had for breakfast and another talk about her feelings for a close friend.  What a great expressive tool!
Applications Outside of Music Therapy: Great for addressing speech and language goals and an excellent motivational tool for addressing behavioral goals like following directions and impulse control.
Songify is loads of fun for addressing all kinds of therapeutic goals, but really, it is a fun app for everyone in the family.  Download this FREE app for your kids and students today!
Reviewed by: Bonnie Hayhurst, MT-BC
Music Therapist and owner of